We have all been in a big hurry to get the crop in this season. The late start and the fear of rain delays that can happen in May have motivated us all to get as much seeding done as quickly as possible. Now that seeding is near completion, it is time to get out there and see how your seeding equipment has performed.
The first thing to do with any field is to do a stand count. The number of plants per square meter is critical to yield in the fall. With wheat and oats, there needs to be 250 plants per square meter. With barley, there should be 210 plants per square meter. Canola should have between 70 and 120 plants per square meter. Peas should be around 75 plants per square meter. If this number of plants is not present, the likelihood of top yields is reduced. Seeding too deep, poor quality seed, having too much fertilizer close to the seed and lack of or improper seed treatment are the most common causes of poor stand establishment.
Once the plant count is done, the overall health of the plant should be assessed. Healthy leaves have a specific and consistent color to their tissue. Look at the plants and see if they are the “right” color of green. Look for spots on the new leaves. Spots can be an indicator of tissue damage from either disease or insect damage. These issues can cause reduced stand numbers and health over the next few weeks. Maintaining the stand is important and looking for problems that can affect the seedlings is critical if the stand health is to be maintained.
Once the above ground growth of the seedlings has been looked at, it is time to dig up some plants. Healthy roots are essential for healthy plants. When looking at plants in the field, roots are the first place I go when looking for health status of the plant. The first factor that I examine is the color of the root material. If there is browning present on the roots, that means that there has been damage from a fungal infection or there has been insect feeding. Various fungi attack the roots and can cause browning. There is not a lot can be done about this after seeding. Recognizing the pathogen that is attacking your seedlings will help plan a seed treatment program for next year.
The root hairs present on the plant indicate good plant health. Root hairs are difficult to see. The best way to be sure plant root hairs are present is to see if there is soil sticking to the roots when the plants come out of the ground. Root hairs are essential to plant health because they provide feeding sites for the plants to take up nutrients.
Finally, look at seeding depth. Seeding too deep is the most common reason for poor stand health.
Proper stand density is essential for plant health. If you want to grow more bushels, it starts with a healthy stand in the spring.
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag